Update: August 28, 2012, 5:39 PM
Gabriela Saucedo Mercer hasn’t even won the Republican primary for Congress in Arizona yet, but she is already facing attacks from the Democratic Congressman she is hoping to unseat in November over some incendiary comments she made in the past about Middle Eastern immigrants.
In an interview with a conservative website last year, Saucedo Mercer talked in depth about her views on immigration. A Mexican immigrant herself who became a U.S. citizen, she said the issue was important because people from places other than Mexico were among those coming across the border illegally.“That includes Chinese, Middle Easterners,” she said. “If you know Middle Easterners, a lot of them, they look Mexican or they look, you know, like a lot of people in South America, dark skin, dark hair, brown eyes. And they mix. They mix in.
“And those people, their only goal in life is to, to cause harm to the United States. So why do we want them here, either legally or illegally? When they come across the border, besides the trash that they leave behind, the drug smuggling, the killings, the beheadings. I mean, you are seeing stuff. It’s a war out there.”
Saucedo Mercer was facing fellow Republican Jaime Vasquez in Tuesday’s primary in Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, with the results due later tonight. But her supporters and opponents both clearly expect her to win.
She has been endorsed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Saucedo Mercer on Sept. 12 in Tucson, Ariz. She was also facing attacks from the campaign of Rep. Raul Grijalva, the Democrat she is trying to unseat.
Before the primary polls even closed, Grijalva’s campaign posted a video to YouTube highlighting Mercer’s comments. It was titled “The Real Gabriela Mercer – We Don’t Want Middle Easterners” and dated on Monday.
On Tuesday afternoon, Saucedo Mercer’s husband, Ted Mercer, who was speaking for the campaign, first denied to TPM his wife was talking about Middle Eastern immigrants. Then he eventually said she may have misspoken during the June 2011 interview.
“I can assure you that she has no blanket bias against people from the Middle East,” Ted Mercer said. “Maybe she should have said terrorist-oriented Middle Easterners.”
He also said he and his wife had information about Middle Eastern immigrants from a “source” inside the U.S. Border Patrol. Pressed more about where that information came from, he declined to say. “I would not care to reveal that source,” Mercer said, adding later: “It isn’t just one source.”
But Mercer also said it was normal to be concerned about the subject. “There has been an awful lot of terrorist activities all over the world perpetrated by people from the Middle East,” he said.
Saucedo Mercer gave the interview originally to a conservative website called Western Free Press, but it went almost unnoticed until now. On Tuesday afternoon, it had only 215 views on YouTube.
Still, she has been a favorite in some Republican circles. On her website, she boasts of numerous endorsements, including from retired Lt. Gen. William Boykin, known for his anti-Muslim views, as well as Arizona’s Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), who apologized for embarrassing the state earlier this year after he threatened to keep Barack Obama off the November ballot if the president couldn’t prove he was really born in the United States.
Saucedo Mercer’s Facebook page shows her posing for photos next to former presidential candidate Herman Cain as well as presumptive Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
In the interview, Saucedo Mercer also commented on the religious affiliations of some of some immigrants who were crossing the border illegally. She said evidence of Muslims crossing the border were found in the desert in Arizona.
“They have found prayer rugs. They have found copies of the Quran,” she said. “So that tells you this is not just poor illegals who are trying to come to this country and find work. It’s bigger than that.”
Watch the interview:
Ed note: This story has been updated with comments from the campaign and to reflect that the video interview took place last year.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him at email@example.com